Season’s first turtle nest is near Johnson Beach
Fort Morgan had its first turtle nest of the season on May 18, and it was an endangered Kemp’s Ridley, which is very rare to have nest in our area, according to Sara Johnson, the Share the Beach director for the Alabama Coastal Foundation.
“This was a perfect example of exactly what to do when you spot a sea turtle come onto the beach,’’ Johnson posted afterwards. “All observers present kept a safe distance while she nested, stayed quiet, and called in to the hotline. (866-SEA-TURTLE). We were able to respond quickly and our volunteers and biologist had the good fortune to watch her nest and go back to the water. We will be anxiously awaiting the emergence of these special babies in about two months.
Gulf Islands National Seashore reported its first sea turtle nest of the season, a Loggerhead, east of Johnson Beach on May 27.
Loggerheads, Greens, Leatherbacks and the rare Kemp’s Ridley all nest on Gulf Coast beaches from May through October. And Loggerheads are the most common, accounting for over 90 percent of the nests laid each year. Once laid, the eggs will incubate for around 60 days, after which hatchlings emerge under the cover of darkness and make their way to the Gulf.
Furniture, tents and toys left on the beach overnight create obstacles that can trap or injure them during a nesting attempt. White lights on the beach may deter them from nesting or cause them to abandon a nesting attempt, also known as a false crawl. There had been several instances of false crawls reported on Pleasure Island as of the start of Memorial Day Weekend.
Citizens can help by observing the following common sense practices.
• Remove all furniture and toys from the beach when you’re done for the day, including hammocks, tents, canopies, chairs, toys and sports equipment.
• Female turtles prefer dark, quiet beaches for nesting and hatchlings need dark skies to find the Gulf of Mexico. Leave the flashlights and cell phones at home or use a red flashlight when on the beach at night. Turn off beach-facing lights and close windows and curtains to keep our beaches dark.
• Trash and food waste can entangle turtles and other wildlife and attract unwanted predators. Always dispose of trash in the proper receptacle and refrain from feeding wildlife.
• Large holes are hazardous to both wildlife and people. Avoid digging large holes and fill in any holes, trenches or moats at the end of your visit.
“We want to remind beachgoers to leave no trace and follow guidance to protect our sea turtles this season,” said Escambia County Natural Resources Management Director Tim Day in a press release.
“Adult and hatchling sea turtles can easily become disoriented by artificial light sources like flashlights, headlights and sky glow from neighboring cityscapes,” added Jennifer Manis, a biologist a Gulf
Islands National Seashore. “Artificial light draws turtles away from the Gulf of Mexico and inland. These disoriented turtles then often die from dehydration, predators or vehicle strikes.”